Emotional, raw, and unapologetically realistic. It’s no wonder Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize.
Olive Kitteridge is a former math teacher with a tough and bristly exterior. Like most people who come across this way, Olive has her own demons to battle in private and an incredible understanding of human nature.
Each chapter tells a separate story involving people who live in Olive’s hometown, Crosby Maine. Sometimes Olive plays a central role, other times she is just hovering somewhere on the periphery. Each chapter weaves together to tell an incredible story of love, life, death, and the human condition.
I absolutely loved this book. I found myself identifying so many times with Olive. Her insights into human nature and life were incredibly profound at times. Even though she comes across as such a tough cookie, I feel as though she could very well be a creative free spirit trapped in a mundane and disappointing world.
It took me quite a few days to read Olive Kitteridge. I needed to stop and let each chapter sink in before I was able to move onto the next one. If you decide to check it out, be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster.
“You couldn’t make yourself stop feeling a certain way, no matter what the other person did. You had to just wait. Eventually the feeling went away because others came along. Or sometimes it didn’t go away but got squeezed into something tiny, and hung like a piece of tinsel in the back of your mind.”
“Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.”
“She didn’t like to be alone. Even more, she didn’t like being with people.”
“Olive’s private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as “big bursts” and “little bursts.” Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, unseen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at Bradlee’s, let’s say, or the waitress at Dunkin’ Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really.”“Traits don’t change, states of mind do.”“Don’t be scared of your hunger. If you’re scared of your hunger, you’ll just be one more ninny like everyone else.”
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.
As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.